Actions Needed To Insure That Female Veterans Have Equal Access to VA Benefits

HRD-82-98: Published: Sep 24, 1982. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed Veterans Administration (VA) efforts to provide health care benefits to female veterans. GAO specifically sought to determine whether VA was: (1) equipped to provide women with medical care; (2) planning for the anticipated increase in women veterans demanding care; (3) informing women veterans of available benefits; and (4) addressing their psychological problems related to service in Vietnam.

VA has made progress in ensuring that medical care and other benefits are available to female veterans. However, because females are a small proportion of the total veteran population, VA has not adequately focused on the unique medical needs of women. Women cannot benefit from some specialized medical care because of the lack of privacy in older VA facilities; and complete gynecological and obstetrical care are often not available. The reliance of many facilities on a fee-basis program to reimburse private health care providers for such services results in the denial of treatment to women with nonemergency conditions which are not connected with their service. This is inequitable because the facilities treat virtually all of the outpatient nonservice-connected medical needs of males. VA does not provide care for normal pregnancy and childbirth, even if the veteran was pregnant when discharged from the military or is unable to pay for hospital care. VA long-range planning has neither identified those programs currently unable to accept women nor projected the number of female veterans expected to seek care, and VA has not planned renovation projects which would increase female patients' access to care. VA has not adequately informed female veterans of their medical benefits; however, the Veterans' Readjustment Counseling Program is specifically addressing female veterans needs, collecting statistics on women treated, and performing outreach toward female veterans.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: VA did not agree with the recommendation; and it said that female veterans are notified of their benefits when they are discharged.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Benefits Director, establish procedures to insure that female veterans will not be notified of major changes in benefits that affect them.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: VA did not agree with the recommendation; and it said that all veterans are equally aware of benefits.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Benefits Director, evaluate female veterans' awareness of benefits.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Medical Director, develop projections on the numbers of service-connected and nonservice-connected female veterans expected to seek care from VA and use such data in planning future construction and renovation projects.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Medical Director, instruct VA medical facilities to identify all treatment programs that cannot accept female patients and develop alternative ways to provide the care, such as sharing agreements or increased use of the inpatient fee-basis program.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Medical Director, revise privacy standards and ensure that future construction or renovation projects correct privacy limitations that limit women's access to VA facilities and treatment.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Medical Director, improve female veterans' access to outpatient gynecological care and other care not available at VA facilities by: (1) negotiating sharing agreements with the Department of Defense or other federal hospitals; (2) contracting with private gynecologists; or (3) developing in-house capability.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of Veterans Affairs should, through the Chief Benefits Director, expand outreach efforts to include veterans' organizations with predominantly female memberships.

    Agency Affected: Veterans Administration

 

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